Traditional campus life may be nearly unrecognizable this Fall, with social distancing infused into all aspects of university activity. Boston University administration also holds the right to shut campus down again.
BU announced these changes in the campus life edition of the Back2BU guidebook series: “Same Campus, New Campus Life.” This installment, released Monday, detailed what a return to campus will look like socially for students.
Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore said the University made these decisions for the health and safety of its community. He said on-campus residents have a collective responsibility to adhere to the guidelines to ensure maximum safety.
“I think what we’ve got to imagine is how we are resetting a social contract where we’ve got to be much more mindful about each other,” Elmore said, “where we’ve got to hold each other mutually accountable for doing some basic things like wearing face covers in public.”
Once in housing, students will be asked to stay within their “households,” which could comprise the residents within a suite, a room or neighboring rooms, Elmore said. The households will likely be formed based on who shares a bathroom.
Some students may be asked to live in hotels as part of possible quarantine measures, and the school will provide care and services to them. Elmore said all students returning from off-campus will be asked to self-quarantine.
Further details about quarantining are still being determined, Elmore said.
“We are still looking for a little bit more guidance from our public health officials about that,” Elmore said. “There is conversation that perhaps the quarantine time or timing might vary based upon the testing that we’re able to do.”
The University’s goal, Elmore said, is to test students immediately when they arrive on campus to move in. All determinations are still subject to change.
The University also has the ability to entirely terminate students’ housing agreements and ask everyone to leave campus, as it did in March. In the event of this, students will once again be refunded for the unused remainder of their room and board fees.
BU also announced its move-in process will now span 17 days, starting Aug. 15 and ending Aug. 31, in order to decrease contact between people.
Students can register for their move-in dates and times at some point in July through the Housing Portal, Elmore said. Everyone will be required to wear masks during move-in and students may have a maximum of one guest helping them in the process.
It will also be possible for students to move in as early as Aug. 1 if their circumstances warrant it. Students can apply for this early arrival status starting July 1, when the application form will be released on the BU Housing website.
Announcements will also be made soon about when and where students will be able to retrieve the items BU had helped them store.
Students who have already chosen to continue remote learning but had previously made on-campus housing arrangements or those who would like to cancel their BU Housing contract for another reason must do so before July 10 to be refunded.
Those not returning to campus in the Fall will have access to an application to request housing for Spring. Their old assignments will not be held for them.
The University also released an advisory stating it may move students from their assigned residence to enforce a quarantine or isolation period, or to de-densify a residential building.
As for visitors, no one who is not affiliated with BU will be allowed in dormitories, and students cannot enter the living spaces of those who are not in the same dormitory.
Campus dining will also see changes, as there will be contactless serving and limited seating in dining halls. Face coverings will be mandated in dining halls and students can order Rhetty to Go meals at any time during normal service hours.
Lobster Night, the guidebook said, is still set to happen — although it will look different.
The University has partnered with GrubHub to offer delivery options from all retail locations affiliated with BU, such as Starbucks and Raising Cane’s.
Elmore said the University is currently working to create guidelines for safely conducting the kind of student activities often held by campus organizations. Plans for University traditions — such as the First-Year Student Outreach Project and Splash — are being adapted to fit health standards.
“I hope people see that we’re not going to lock you in your rooms. You’re going to be able to still do what you do,” Elmore said. “I think it’s just a little bit more careful planning.”
The Fitness and Recreation Center is set to reopen, but capacity will be limited and those taking courses in the building will have priority access. People will be expected to wear masks at all times — including during workouts — and wear their workout clothes to the facility to avoid use of changing rooms.
Face coverings will be mandated at all times on campus and classrooms will be equipped with technology to aid in socially-distanced learning. The University will also work to ensure the campus is sanitized frequently, and requests students help by cleaning up after themselves.
While proper implementation of these guidelines will be left in the hands of students themselves, Elmore said, everyone will have to undergo COVID-19 testing and complete self-assessments of symptoms through the “attestation app” the University is currently developing.
Elmore said he hopes every individual takes it upon themselves to ensure the campus community is practicing proper health guidelines. He added that he hopes people refrain from calling DOS or the police over matters like someone not wearing a face mask.
“I hope the answer is, you’d actually tell them they should probably do that,” Elmore said. “We’ve got to solve our conflicts without escalating it to the point of a disciplinary sanction or jail.”
Neil Baker, a rising junior in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Fine Arts, is an American citizen who currently resides in Australia, which forces him to comply with travel sanctions. He said he has concerns over how the University will be able to promote healthy socialization among students despite social distancing.
“Over time, the accumulated lack of people’s ability to go to these social engagements, to be able to participate in the way they want to in student life,” Baker said, “is going to have strong… detrimental [health] effect.”
This past semester, learning remotely while overseas proved challenging, Baker said, so much so, that he will take a gap semester or year if he cannot return to campus. He said this choice is not his preference.
“Waking up in the middle of night to do classes is just awful,” Baker said. “I was doing it at the end of last semester and it just wasn’t working. Your grades suffer, motivation suffers, everything suffers. And that’s not a sacrifice that I’m willing to make again.”
Soros Wen, a rising junior in CAS, said he does not trust students to follow proper health guidelines.
“I’m very concerned about safety in the bathroom because you see people don’t know how to flush toilets, which is a super simple action compared to doing social distancing,” Wen said. “So I don’t know whether or not you can keep it clean.”
While he agrees with some of the University’s decisions, like creating an app to help maintain public health safety, Wen said he is unsure if it is enough. He said large dormitories could pose additional problems for social distancing.
“The situation in Warren Towers is terrible because every… night there will be a long line waiting for the elevator,” Wen said. “And then you limit the number of people that can take the elevator at once, the line is going to get longer. And I’m not sure how BU is going to take care of that.”